Food-for-health Challenge aims to boost NZ exports

1 April 2014

Science & Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced today that Plant & Food Research is one of five organisations chosen to lead the new High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.

Plant & Food Research will be teaming up with the University of Auckland, Massey University, the University of Otago and AgResearch in the new research initiative, which aims to develop new food products with validated health benefits.

The task for the scientists from the five institutions is to produce, with other collaborators, cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary research to help New Zealand companies take advantage of global demand for foods with health benefits. This ten year challenge is approved with $30.6 million subject to finalisation of contract conditions. A review at the end of five years means another $53.2 million becomes available for a second five-year period. Total funding for the High-Value Nutrition Challenge is up to $180.8 million over ten years.

"Understanding consumers’ perceptions in the foods-for-health space and then developing new products that meet this need will provide the New Zealand food industry a significant edge on the international market,” says Dr Jocelyn Eason, GM Science Food Innovation at Plant & Food Research. “Developing an in-depth understanding of how food can support human health, then using this knowledge to develop new products that consumers, both domestically and internationally, wish to buy, will form the basis of a strong New Zealand food industry, as well as a society with less need for medical intervention for many diet-related illnesses.”

“The Government has clearly signalled the science challenges must involve cutting-edge clinical, food and consumer science research that takes us in a new direction and we will be focused on exactly that,” says Professor David Cameron-Smith, Chair in Nutrition at the University of Auckland and Establishment Director for the Challenge. “Food is central to our economy and we are delighted to have been given the opportunity to both enhance health and contribute significantly to this country’s export success.”

Government Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says it is exciting to see the first of the ten National Science Challenges launched. “The High-Value Nutrition Challenge will stretch the New Zealand research community but the potential for validated nutritional claims of foods to improve public health and to add value to New Zealand’s exports is enormous.”

Bob Major will chair the Board for High-Value Nutrition and will bring his considerable experience in food manufacturing and exporting to ensure the research is market-oriented and makes sense to food exporting businesses. “Being able to scientifically demonstrate tangible health benefits for consumers and have that approved by government food regulators is one of the few ways to add value to New Zealand’s primary products and will provide a competitive advantage to our food marketers so they can leverage into greater market share and margins,” Mr Major says.

The goals of the High-Value Nutrition Challenge are:

To establish a centre of research that is an authoritative voice on food-for-health claims, both nationally and internationally


  • Carry out clinically-based, biomedical research to provide new opportunities for the development of new foods that meet current and future consumer-driven health needs
  • Assist New Zealand companies in developing foods and beverages that improve health
  • Provide the scientific evidence to validate health claims for high-value food products so that New Zealand companies can establish new international markets (while also providing guidelines for the New Zealand public)
  • Undertake research informed by Mātauranga Māori and identify opportunities for Maori food producers
  • Help preserve the safety of the food supply chain and enable the production of consumer-valued foods-for-health.


Emma Timewell
Communications Manager, Corporate Communications,
Plant & Food Research Mt Albert,
120 Mt Albert Road, Sandringham
Auckland, 1025, New Zealand
Telephone: +64-9-925 8692
Mobile: +64-21-2429 365

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